Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has drawn controversy by announcing an interest in moving Australia’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while speaking at the Parliament House last week (October 16th) . This came about as the government discussed ideas to achieve a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, as well as reviewing Australia’s foreign policy in the region, as reported by The Australian.
Mr. Morrison announced he was considering the Jerusalem shift following discussions with former Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma. “So when sensible suggestions are put forward that are consistent with your policy positioning and in this case pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open minded to this and I am open minded to this and our government is open minded to this,” Mr. Morrison said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the news by expressing gratitude towards his Australian counterpart on social media. “I spoke today with Australian PM @ScottMorrisonMP. He informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this.” Mr. Netanyahu tweeted.
However, the news has sparked outrage from other countries. The Guardian (October 16th ) reported that representatives from 13 Middle Eastern and North African embassies in Australia condemned Mr. Morrison’s announcement, labelling it ‘a fatal mistake’ with potentially negative consequences for economic relations.
According to ABC (October 16th), a senior Indonesian Government source was cited as saying that the country was considering laying off a landmark free trade agreement with Australia following the announcement. However, Indonesia’s Trade Minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, told Reuters in a text message there was “no such thing,” adding that the agreement would still be signed this year.
The announcement by Mr. Morrison follows a recent UN resolution appointing the Palestinian Authority as the head of the G77 (a coalition of 77 developing nations), giving Palestine greater legitimacy, moving closer to becoming a full UN member. Australia signaled its position by joining the U.S. and Israel as the only three countries to vote against the move.
U.S. President Donald Trump caused uproar from Palestinians and people across the Arab world when he declared the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. embassy over in May. The U.S. decision infuriated Palestinians in Gaza, who held a mass protest at the border with Israel. Tragically, at least 60 were killed and thousands wounded when Israeli forces responded with excessive force, as reported by ABC (May 16th). Australia would be the second major country to move its embassy if it goes ahead with this move. So far, the U.S., Paraguay, and Guatemala are the only countries to have opened embassies in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem topic is a sensitive foreign policy issue which should be thought out cautiously, engaging high-level security agencies regarding potential foreign policy implications.
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